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Christy Clark: Replete with smiles, not substance

Why did Christy Clark want to be Premier of beautiful British Columbia?

When she figures that out, maybe she will start to do a better job.

As it is, Ms. Clark has been mostly floundering since leaving her comfortable, well-paid position as a radio hot-line host – which she was good at – to contest and win the leadership of the Liberal Party with the support of just one of its 48 MLAs.

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And now, with two intriguing by-elections in traditionally safe Liberal ridings coming up, the Clark leadership wagon could lurch straight into the ditch if the party does poorly in both contests.

The past week has been particularly rough. Coming off yet another mis-statement on public transit funding, Ms. Clark was hit by the defection of peeved backbencher John van Dongen to the fledgling B.C. Conservative Party, out-loud musings by two senior cabinet minister that they might not run again, and yet another bad public opinion poll that gave her the second-lowest approval rating among all the premiers of Canada.

Increasingly, it appears that Ms. Clark simply liked the idea of being Premier, without much thought of what to do after that. Almost willfully uninterested in policy, she's been lurching from slogan to slogan, while claiming to be responsible for virtually everything good that moves.

It's not working.

Veteran political analyst Norman Ruff, who has seen premiers rise, and mostly fall, in British Columbia over the past 40 years, says Ms. Clark is the victim of her own shortcomings.

"There's a gap between her smile and her actual performance," says Mr. Ruff of the perennially-upbeat Premier.

Rather than establishing substantive programs of her own, Ms. Clark has spent most of her time reacting to events, and that's not cutting it with British Columbians, according to Mr. Ruff, professor emeritus at the University of Victoria.

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"There's been nothing innovative from her at all. The issue is leadership and she has not been able to deliver on it."

And yet, despite all, this is not to say she is inevitably doomed to defeat when the province troops to the polls next year. A year is an eternity in politics. Ms. Clark has hired a number of experienced political strategists, and strange things can happen in the heat of an election campaign.

But as of today, the provincial Liberals seem as tired of being in office as the voters are of having them there.

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